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New Delhi: The administration of Allahabad University has written to the Union education ministry complaining that a recent visit of two officials of the British High Commission in Delhi to the university campus has intensified the ongoing fee-hike protests by the students.
In a statement issued on Thursday, September 8, the university administration said that the visit of two High Commission officials on August 29 was brought to their notice “through reports in the press” and that these officials had interacted with students from various departments through “so-called student leaders”, according to a report in the Indian Express.
The statement said that these officials “made provocative statements among the students on some controversial topics, including the issue of students’ union.”
Richard Barlow, head of political and bilateral affairs at the British High Commission, New Delhi, and Bhavana Vij, senior political economic advisor, visited the AU campus on August 29, while they were on a three-day visit to Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh.
Barlow and Vij, during their visit, met with officials of the Uttar Pradesh government and district administration, as well as an alumna of a UK government-funded programme for young Indians.
Now, the AU administration is holding the officials responsible for the student protests surrounding the University’s fee hike, which first began in July this year.
“As a result, students have been agitating and protesting in and around the university on the issue of fee hike. These High Commission officials neither contacted any university official nor informed them about their visit to the campus and nor sought any permission,” the Express report quoted the AU statement as saying.
The report also quotes AU’s Public Relations Officer, who described the High Commission officials’ meeting with the students as a “sad incident”, saying that the proper protocols for visiting the campus should have been followed.
The PRO further said that the university administration got to know through reports in newspapers that the officials and the students’ unions spoke about “sensitive” issues and noted that the fee-hike protests intensified after the visit. She also said that the officials did not meet the University administration and that the fact that they only met “volatile” student groups “put them under the scanner.
The PRO also mentioned that concerns regarding the incident have been detailed in a letter to the education ministry. “It is upon them to initiate further action,” the Express report quoted the PRO as saying.
Noting that the High Commission meets with “a range of individuals and organisations” as part of the UK’s work in India, a statement by the British body noted that it could not comment further on the content of private meetings.
Sources reportedly told the newspaper that the aforementioned alumna of the UK government-funded programme was Richa Singh, the first female president of the AU student union who has since come to be affiliated with the Samajwadi Party.